How complicated are the relationships you have with loved ones in your life? You have friends in varying circles and family members of differing degrees of closeness. You may temper your conversations with them according to their age, maturity, or social and religious background. You may connect better with some than others, but even with the ones you feel closest to, there may be strife at times. My guess is, the way you converse with your loved ones is directly influenced by your relationship with them—ever changing, ever growing, on so many levels. You value the relationships you have with these people and want to see these connections last for a lifetime, if not longer.
So why are you still “saying your prayers?”
I’ve been very emotional lately. I’ve come off a tremendous “high” in recharging my spiritual and creative juices, which normally would sustain me, but in this case has plunged me into a feeling of despair. Add to that, the change of season has given me an early bout of the flu, and so I’ve been quite miserable. In my misery, I have tried hard not to neglect my prayers. But I noticed something disturbing—I had fallen into a pattern of prayer that was more like reading from a pre-written list of what to say rather than sincere communication with God. No wonder I was feeling so empty—I was treating my relationship to the most important person like He didn’t matter at all.
We have a choice—we can “say our prayers” or we can pray. The difference is enormous. Saying our prayers is a rote activity which requires very little thought. For some, it includes repetitive sayings that lose meaning if we let them. No matter the source—direct Bible verses or poetic verse we may have learned as a child—if we are saying them without deep thought, they lack the connection we could be developing with God. Prayer is a real connection with an actual being who we are permanently and divinely related to. Prayer is talking to Heavenly Father, one-on-one, the most intimate way to communicate.
Prayer connects you to someone pretty important—God.
God is the creator of the universe—an endless number of stars, moons, planets, nebulas, and all other celestial phenomena that we have yet to discover. God propels the energies of the galaxy to create worlds without number with its vast array of land formations and seas. God is the mastermind behind the infinite complexities of life—plants, vegetation, animals, and human life—from the microscopic to the colossal. And in all this complexity, all this intelligence, all this delicacy of balance and care, He takes the time to listen to you. He doesn’t see you as an insignificant byproduct of his creativity. You are the reason for His work—to bring to pass your eternal life and immortality, to groom you for stewardship and creation yourself, with the divine grace of His own hand.
Prayer is a relationship
With all the things God could be doing right now, he stops and listens to you when you pray. He cares about who you are and how you are doing. He weeps when you weep and rejoices when you are successful. He is the cradle into which you can crawl to find comfort and he is the wave you ride in on when you exercise courage. He is your Father, in the sweetest, most supportive, most loving sense that fatherhood embodies. Praying to Him is an opportunity to explore that relationship—to allow it to grow and develop so that you can become greater than who you were yesterday.
Prayer has a pattern
The pattern of prayer is suggested for reverence and for blessings. When we address God as our Father in Heaven, we give honor to who He is in the eternal family and what He is capable of doing for us. When we include specific things in our prayer—repentance, thankfulness, asking for righteous desires of the heart—we acknowledge His hand in our personal redemption and our eternal progression. When we end our prayers with the words, “in the name of Jesus Christ,” we give reverence to the one being who made it possible for us to be reunited with our Father in Heaven again. The pattern is simple, but the details are what bring us happiness through trials and tribulations of faith.
Conversations vary—why not prayer?
As I said before, I realized over the past few weeks how I’ve been feeling a little off center, and I realized my prayers have been empty words. My relationship with God had suffered and I needed to refocus on who He is and how much I matter to Him. So I changed up my prayers to include more gratitude, more contemplation, more requests for opportunities to serve. The result has been life-changing. I felt His love for me—I felt the warmth of His spirit as if to say to me, “My child, that is what I’ve needed to hear. Thank you for caring enough to talk to me.” It gave me hope and it gave me courage to press on.
Power in prayer—repentance
Repentance is not only for the “big sins.” Repentance is a daily cleansing of the soul. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught that the first principles of the gospel are, first, faith in the Lord Jess Christ and second, repentance. If we include repentance in our daily prayers, we are forgiven—I know that sounds simple but it truly is miraculous. Think of a daily habit of brushing your teeth. Doing so without toothpaste is like going through the motions without getting the full benefit of clean teeth.
Repentance on a daily basis has the power to cleanse the soul in the same way. We may not even remember all that we need to repent of, but it does not matter. My Catholic friends feel the benefits of repentance regularly as they recite “The Lord’s Prayer.” In it, they ask Heavenly Father to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” They learned early on to ask for forgiveness—to repent regularly—and they are a happy people because of it. If we remember to incorporate repentance in our prayers regularly, we can become a happier people too.
Humility in prayer—gratitude
I recently attended a convention for fantasy and science fiction enthusiasts where I got the chance to meet my favorite actor/director/musician/writer personality. He is an amazing individual outright in his personal and professional life, and his work shows a certain level of standard-keeping and spirituality one doesn’t often see in the entertainment world. While standing in line to meet him, I spoke with a woman who knew him personally.
She mentioned how he does something really thought provoking—he sets an alarm on his smart phone to go off at noon each day for the sole purpose of stopping whatever he’s doing to show gratitude. He gives a prayer consisting only of showing thanks to Heavenly Father—no requests, just gratitude. When I heard this, my first thought was, of course he does—that would explain the exceptional quality of his work. My second thought was, I need to do that too. And so I set an alarm on my phone that very day. It has made all the difference in my relationship with God.
Our relationship with God is worth the effort
Prayer doesn’t have to be repetitious, boring, or one-sided. But like any relationship worth keeping, our relationship with God requires we put in the effort. Luckily, He wants to bless us continually—it’s his nature. We can make it our habit to allow this to happen, one prayer at a time.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.